Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re wrapping up our Rise of the Eldrazi spoilers with the set now fully spoiled, the prerelease is coming tomorrow, and our new Standard format is on the horizon. Ready for some insight and discussion on some awesome new cards? Let’s go!
So on Wednesday Wizards of the Coast did something they had never done before: Given us the full visual spoiler three days before release. And with this info we had not only all of the card names and their abilities, but all of their fantastic artwork to boot. And believe it or not, there were still some fantastic cards not spoiled yet. But before we get to those, let’s discuss a few heavy hitters.
It’s quickly becoming apparent that Vengevine is not only good, but Holy Cow Best In The Set Good. This card does ridiculous things and it does them quickly. My favorite interaction so far isn’t Bloodbraid Elf, though the overpowered uncommon doesn’t hurt, but rather with Ranger of Eos. How completely bonkers is it to go fetch a Goblin Bushwhacker and Steppe Lynx, play the Ranger of Eos and Steppe Lynx, which brings back your Vengevine or two, then kicking your Goblin Bushwhacker to kill em out of nowhere? Vengevine is not only the real deal, he is guaranteed to make an impact in your Standard metagame. When Patrick Chapin says it’s a solid contender for best in the set, you’d do well do listen. For those serious about Standard and Block play, get your set now.
The next card I want to talk about really snuck up on me: Linvala, Keeper of Silence. This Mythic turned from an above-the-curve 3/4 flier to “Wait, what does it do again?” At first I was underwhelmed: Why doesn’t this say “cards” or “permanents”? That would surely be better. But look closer. This card is deceptively awesome. First, it shuts off mana abilities, something that most cards in this vein, that is “no” and “can’t” cards like Pithing Needle, specifically note. But the question is: What does this card stop? Let’s go through a few heavy hitters: Putrid Leech, Noble Hierarch, Knight of the Reliquary, Master of the Wild Hunt, Thornling, Vampire Hexmage, Ant Queen, Cunning Sparkmage, and how about this monster: Siege-Gang Commander. Nice 2/2 with your 1/1’s.
Many have noted that Linvala is aggressively costed to allow a follow-up Gideon Jura, will die to the same removal that takes care of Baneslayer Angel, and is big enough to block Bloodbraid Elf and Sprouting Thrinax with ease. Hell, it blocks Putrid Leech pretty easily too. What are they gonna do, pump it? Nice Noble Hierarch that does nothing but provide Exalted now. I’d pick up yours before everyone else catches on.
Going back to rares, a card that has been on everyone’s radar is Training Grounds. Now the exciting thing about this card is that it is as aggressively costed as possible: For just one Blue mana, all of your activated abilities are subtracted by two colorless, as long as that doesn’t reduce the cost below 1 mana. Now players out there have been going nuts trying to break it, and the best thing that seems to have popped up is Filligree Sages and Khalni Gem. This gives you infinite mana… if you can resolve Training Grounds, keep Filligree Sages alive, and then resolve Khalni Gem with something in your hand to take advantage of it.
What does this all sound like? Magical Christmas Land folks. Scenarios in which you can ‘break’ this card are few and far between. While reducing the cost of Wren’s Run Packmaster and Magosi Sphinx sounds really awesome, I don’t think it’s going to get there competitively. That said, I really appreciate how ‘pushed’ this card is, and it’s going to drive Johnnies wild. For me, it’s the Bloodchief Ascension of the set: It looks awesome, it gets the juices flowing, but ultimately can’t beat the ‘Established Decks.’
But how about a juicy rare? Have you seen Awakening Zone? Oh man, this card is nuts. It’s Eldrazi Blossom, for cryin’ out loud! The reaction to this card sounds like the reaction to Bitterblossom: It’s slow, it doesn’t affect the board immediately, it’s a bad topdeck, blah blah blah. What does it actually do? It gives you Turn 3 Baneslayers. Turn 1 Noble Hierarch, Turn 2 Awakening Zone, Turn 3 Baneslayer Angel. But that’s probably the most ‘tame’ thing you can do with it.
The key to this card is an important interaction and it’s synergy with the rest of the set. We’ll tackle the latter first. Look at the incredible amount of Eldrazi Spawn token producers in this set, then look at a card like Brood Birthing. You know what cracks me up about Rise of the Eldrazi? It’s like Wizards is basically saying “Okay, we know fast mana is bad. We recognize Dark Ritual and Lotus Petal are broken. But how about some ramp? Getcha some ramp!” There are just SO many Eldrazi Spawn creators in this set! Remember Emrakul’s Hatcher? Compare him to Siege-Gang Commander. Sure, one deals more damage, but the other pushes you way past the curve like a Seething Song with legs. I mean, check out Nest Invader. It’s a Ramp Bear! Or how about Ondu Giant! Nice Rampant Growth on a stick. But I’ll do you one better: Look at Growth Spasm. One more mana? Get a land and another mana on top of that! It’s ramp-ramp-ramp time in Standard looks like. And hell, you need it: How else are you going to cast those expensive Eldrazi spells?
While I see what Wizards is doing, I am also really excited to see what sort of incredible mana ramp could do to the environment. Will Warp World be a deck? Could Eldrazi Ramp get there competitively?
But how about that important interaction I mentioned? You ready for a hot tip? It’s called Polymorph, and you need to get yours soon. The deck practically builds itself, but let’s go over it: First you have Khalni Garden to give you a free dude to sacrifice. Then you’ve got Ponder to stack your deck and Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Brainstorm a fatty back to the top, and Garruk Wildspeaker to give you Beasts to sacrifice and block. Awakening Zone provides you with infinite dudes to sacrifice, mana to cast your Polymorph and keep counterspell mana up, and chump blockers to keep you alive. But it gets better! Yes, really! What was the problem with Polymorph decks in the past? Your fatties would get stuck in your hand. While Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s Brainstorm ability is one half of the equation, why not just get a draw spell instead? You betcha, and Wizards drops See Beyond on us.
They’re practically building the deck for us, so here’s your chance to catch the wave: Get your playset of Polymorphs, throw this sucker together, and power out your Emrakul of the I Win Lols in no time! The best part is that Polymorph is relatively cheap, mostly because it’s been reprinted almost half a dozen times. While Polymorph has already showed up a bit already in the StarCityGames Open in Orlando, it’s time for this deck to shine, and the tools are now officially in your hands next week with the official release, or you can grab them early this weekend at a prerelease. Do note that those coming to Richmond will get a chance to meet, greet, and gunsling against powerhouse personality Brian David-Marshall and WotC R&D Hall of Famer Mike Turian.
But back to the spoilers! Check out Lone Missionary. LOVE this guy. A two-mana guy that gains a whopping four life? This guy is so above the curve in this regard it’s nuts: Look at the oh-so-not-exciting Venerable Monk, a card reprinted almost a dozen times, and every time he was underwhelming. But what’s the perfect follow-up to Lone Missionary? Check out Survival Cache, a card that I think has a lot of potential because of one word: Rebound. Gaining two life and drawing a card is neat and all for two life, but gaining four and drawing two for three mana is far more exciting, particularly when you have Lone Missionary and Wall of Omens holding the fort for you.
Another rare getting a lot of attention is Consume the Meek, a card Patrick Chapin and I spoke about in our podcast last week. This card is really fantastic because of one word: Instant. Now this Culling Sun that lost a very difficult mana cost, got a lot faster, and a hell of a lot easier to cast is now a force to be reckoned with. This card will live in Jund sideboards for the next few months, just waiting to wreck White Knights, Kor Firewalkers, and Devout Lightcaster’s days over and over again.
But let’s look at another underrated gem: Devastating Summons. Let’s try and get some positives out of the way: First, the mana cost is as low as it can go. Second, you get two guys out of your land investment. Three, the lands you sacrifice can be tapped for mana before they’re sacrificed, and four, using that mana for something like Ranger of Eos to fetch Goblin Bushwhacker is pretty backbreaking. So why is this card ‘bad’? Because the land sacrifice is an additional cost, and giving up resources like that for something that doesn’t win you the game immediately is scary and dangerous. So how do you fix this? Well, as mentioned, Goblin Bushwhacker is a good place to start, and in Legacy Land.dec with cards like Manabond and Life from the Loam make this a pretty saucy option for winning the game in a hurry. I like cards that give you a lot of upside with a little bit of danger, and this is one of those cards.
Bouncing back to Commons for a second, I really like Ancient Stirrings. If there is an Eldrazi Ramp deck to be had, I’m almost positive this will be an All Star in it. Not only does it find the fatties you need to go boom boom, it also finds lands and artifacts! This makes it a great mana smoother if you’re stuck with a one land hand or in EDH and casual decks it finds a wonderful number of powerful artifacts. This should be a very valuable foil if it ends up being half as useful as I expect.
Lastly for Commons I want to highlight Evolving Wilds. Yes, it’s a functional reprint of Terramorphic Expanse, but it was also something Zendikar block really needed — without it, all of those awesome Landfall creatures would be a lot less impressive if all they had was Harrow to work with at Pro Tour: San Juan.
So Rise of the Eldrazi is out in the world, fully spoiled, and I freakin’ love it. It’s a Timmy set through-and-through, full of giant monsters, huge effects, mana ramp, and what appears to be a VERY different limited environment than the one we’ve enjoyed in Zendikar and Worldwake. I’ve got a feeling that cards like Vampire Lacerator aren’t half as powerful in this environment as, say, Vent Sentinel is in draft and sealed.
The only thing I’m disappointed with in Rise of the Eldrazi is the lack of Allies. I’m sure the reasons are two fold: One, they wanted Rise of the Eldrazi to be completely different from Zendikar and Worldwake. The second was Allies were a brand new thing in Zendikar block – these “Superslivers” had never been tried before, and while they are now seen as a fan favorite and awesome creatures to battle with, at the time they were finalized Wizards had no idea as to their reaction. My hope is we see more Allies, and that we see them sooner than later.
All I know is, the prerelease this weekend is going to be incredibly fun and exciting. How often are you actually going to crash into the red zone with Ulamog’s Crusher? How many Eldrazi Spawn tokens are too many? I would like to invite you and all of your friends to find out this weekend – even if it’s not in Richmond, get yourself to a local store or better yet a Regional Prerelease and get your Eldrazi on.
Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards… so you don’t have to.
Evan “misterorange” Erwin
Community Manager, StarCityGames.com